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Research has long established nonprofit organizations’ vital role advocating for the needs of vulnerable populations before legislative policymakers. In the best of times, it is difficult for 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits employing grassroots advocacy to mobilize vulnerable constituencies to compete with 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) advocacy and special interest groups. The latter organizations inherently have greater flexibility and resources to lobby lawmakers directly, permitting greater access to influencing the policy agenda. Through a multi-method case study of the 2020 regular session of the Louisiana State Legislature, this article demonstrates how the COVID-19 pandemic’s unique contextual conditions made legislative advocacy more difficult than usual for charitable nonprofits promoting a progressive policy response to the pandemic within a politically conservative state. Conducted through interviews with nonprofit leaders and an analysis of legislative records and committee hearings, the case study reveals specific barriers that hampered charitable nonprofits’ access to the legislative process, including physical capacity restrictions and health concerns, as well as issues with virtual legislative protocols and conservative committee chairs’ discretion to ignore remote testimony. The article analyzes how these barriers negatively impacted charitable nonprofits’ ability to advocate for vulnerable populations and explores potential implications for equitable political participation and response to the pandemic.

Journal Name

Nonprofit Policy Forum


Originally published in Nonprofit Policy Forum with a CC-BY license.